The cabinet's likely approval of an "examination committee" to look into certain aspects of Operation Cast Lead as a response to the Goldstone report, and in anticipation of the UN discussion of the report next week, is yet another grave error in the state's response to the claims made about the conduct of the Israel Defense Forces in the Gaza Strip. It's a case of too little, too late. After foolishly boycotting the Goldstone committee, a move that turned out to have been immensely damaging, the government persists in its attempts at a cover-up - entrenching itself further still in its refusal to appoint a state commission of inquiry.
Such a commission is vital, and not only to satisfy Richard Goldstone or world opinion. This goes beyond a public relations problem. A commission is needed first and foremost in order to conduct an honest, independent examination that will determine, once and for all, whether acts that are defined as war crimes were indeed committed in Operation Cast Lead. Israeli society has the right to know what happened in Gaza. If Israel is so sure that it is right, it cannot continue to evade what may be the last chance to repair the severe damage to its standing in the wake of the military operation in Gaza. Any other option, such as the examination committee being proposed now, will not fully determine the truth and will focus "on the quality of the internal investigations" of the army and of the cabinet resolutions. A committee whose authority will be limited and whose scope of operation will be narrow can only further damage Israel's shaky position and prevent a genuine inquiry.
The opposition by the defense minister and the IDF chief of staff to a state commission of inquiry seems to imply that the IDF has something to hide. If this suspicion is unfounded, a state inquiry commission must be permitted to disprove them. And if, heaven forbid, inappropriate acts and crimes were committed during the war, the Israeli public has a right to know.
Any attempt to evade the explicit demand that Israel examine its conduct can only make things worse. The world will not buy into the conclusions of a co-opted committee with limited powers, and its work will not dispel the suspicions hanging over Israel. The prime minister must immediately act to appoint a state commission of inquiry, chaired by a Supreme Court justice, and stop covering up and avoiding a thorough investigation of the truth.
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